here’s one I made earlier :: bright as a button

Katie | December 31, 2014

I’m sharing some of my favourite posts all throughout December – I loved this simple idea from new designer Dave Hallett…

Close up of the bottom of a button filled light buld

I am delighted to announce that confessions of a design geek is the online media partner for Boost, an initiative from the Southbank Centre which provides six new designers with the mentoring and support they need to turn their ideas into fully fledged products, which will launch in the Southbank Centre Shop this autumn. Six designers or design teams were whittled down from hundreds of applicants and I will be featuring each of them on the blog over the coming weeks.

First up, Dave Hallett talks me through how he makes his product, charmingly entitled Bright as a Button. Dave’s mentors are Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire of Mini Moderns, to whom I owe a big thank you for introducing me to this project.

Dave’s Boost products are button filled light bulbs that function as purely decorative items. Having studied graphic design at university and worked in film, this project sparked a change in direction towards designing and making jewellery and accessories. I asked him where the idea first came from.

Dave Hallett Bright as a Button the first prototype

“The original bulbs I made were actually a birthday present for my girlfriend [pictured above]. It was a combination of several inspirations; her love of buttons, our casual interest in lighting design and installations, and stumbling across images of hollowed out bulbs used as vases. I tried one with buttons and another with coloured pencils and they still hang in our bookshelves. I’d never used resin before and was lucky that I got fairly good results first time. My girlfriend loved them and they quickly became very popular with friends who encouraged me to make more.”

a full bleed images of hundreds of brightly colours buttons

Dave goes on to say: “There’s something exciting about a large box full of buttons, and it’s almost a shame to have to separate them.”

Emptied light bulbs with some buttons in them and some around them

Dave removes the contents of the light bulb and adds a “generous tablespoon” of buttons into each one. He leaves the colour selection mostly to chance.

Gloved hands holding a button and resin filled lightbulb stirring with a wooden stick

A little resin is swirled around to get the buttons sticky, so Dave can push the buttons up the sides a little until he is happy with their arrangement. Then the bulb is filled with resin and. Again, a lot is left to chance, but he says: “Colours begin to jump out as the design takes form.” Once the resin has hardened, wearing thick gardening gloves, Dave taps the bottom of the bulb with a small hammer to crack the bulb and gentle removes the glass. Using a real bulb rather than a rubber mould ensures a perfectly smooth shape, and removing the glass stops the light being reflected off the surface and brings out the vibrancy and colours of the buttons. Finally, he gives the screw fitting “a quick polish to complement the shine of the buttons”.

Close up of cord fitting to lightbulb

Dave says: “Attaching the cords is a great stage of the process, not only because [the bulbs] are nearly finished but also you begin to see them as a collection. I’ve settled on green, blue and red cord and try to choose the colours that best complement the buttons. I originally attached the cord with a coil crimp [seen above], it looked really smart but I found they tarnished quickly, and later realised it only takes a curious child to give them a tug and they are stretched beyond repair. So now I tie a neat little knot. I seal the knot and the cord ends with PVA glue, preventing any fraying or slipping, it soaks into the cord and becomes invisible. They are left tied to a couple of upturned stools to dry overnight.”

Button filled light bulbs hanging from upturned stools

Dave’s product was quite well developed when he applied for Boost, so mentors Keith and Mark have been working with him on all the things that go around a product to make it a commercial success: “Keith and Mark have given me some great advice for packaging. We discussed the smallest details such as how the boxes would stack, where do the images go, information hierarchy, and which images communicate the product most quickly.” Dave’s background in graphic design and film and photography have proved useful and he’s developed the artwork for his own packaging and taken all the fabulous photos for this post.

Cardboard box with white label featuring a photograph of the product, a logo and some copy. The 'o' in button is shaped like a button.

“I’d like to say I started with the name ‘bright as a button’ but that came to me quite late. I never feel inspired when I try to make time for ideas, but I can often zone out and think when I’m travelling or walking. I was playing with words that represented bulbs and buttons, and I settled on the ‘bright as a button’ saying. It’s a very British phrase, and means intelligent, lively and inquisitive, often referring to children. I think it works well with the playful nature of the designs.”

Three button filled light bulbs hanging from yellow, blue and red cords on a white background

“Each one is totally unique and made on a relatively short run. Although the bulbs no longer serve as lights, their bright transparent qualities leave a hint of their original purpose, and transform them into an elegant decorative form. From underneath you can see a colourful button mosaic, and looking down through them you can see a kaleidoscope of colour as the resin distorts the shapes of the buttons.”

Three images - close up of bottom of bulb, lots of buttons, close up of side of bulb

Further reading for the especially geeky:

Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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  • Molly

    I want one of these! Are they still for sale anywhere?

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